Since storming the sprawling and ever-changing plains of Early Access last year, ARK: Survival Evolved [official site] has grown into a pretty comprehensive survival sandbox filled with crafting, cooking, foraging and, of course, frantically pegging it in the opposite direction from hungry dinosaurs. If you want to survive beyond the next localised extinction event, Matt’s beginner’s tips and resource guide make for essential reading, so too does his advice on the game’s islands, base building, and creature taming in turn.
But what about mods? How do you twist Studio Wildcard’s breakout open-world adventure playground to suit your own playstyle? Enterprising survivalists should check out the developer’s handy tutorial on how to create and distribute mods via the Steam Workshop over here, whereas those happy to enjoy the works of others should read on. These are the best mods for ARK: Survival Evolved.
By hogs, aenigmis and Ivam respectively
Right, so you’ve awoken alone on an unfamiliar tropical island with nothing to your name besides a smile and some modesty-defying undergarments. Hey, we’ve all been there, right? If you’ve played Ark over the last nine months or so, I’m sure this has happened more times than you care to admit. But I bet you truly understand the importance of constructing makeshift headquarters to hide away from the hostile horrors of your new habitat.
Once you’ve mastered the art of ramshackle residence though, the Advanced Architecture mod lets you broaden your artistic boundaries by introducing over 100 new structures courtesy of a new engram named the Royal Engineer’s Workstation. Unlocking at level 40, this handy workbench brings with it blueprints for a number of nifty eye-catching constructs, such as castle foundations, new flooring and ceiling options, a throne and even a drawbridge.
Similarly, Metal with Glass Set introduces a 30-strong list of metal structures with dyeable glass add-ons which, besides presenting a dazzling appearance, these have the same durability as standard metal-built set ups, less the cost of metal ingots but with the added cost of crystals. Use Aku Shima to kit out the innards of your crib with items such as portable fridges and portable generators, electric furnaces, chinese medicines, and super fabricators that let you craft new items with electricity.
By Bantandulous and CtrlAltDeceive respectively
Once you’ve gotten your head around the inevitability, and regularity, of death-by-dino, you can begin to think about streamlining the process of pulling yourself together. The island of Ark is a big place, you see, and retracing your steps in the event of an untimely demise is often easier said than done. Enter Slow Stuff Decay - a handy mod that helps you relocate your lifeless corpse wherever you last left it by sending slow streams of smoke into the air from your rotting remains. This tweak also slows the decay of your corpse to eight real life hours, and, in the event you get devoured by a hungry dinosaur, backpack decay is slowed to the same timeframe.
Then again, perhaps I’ve got you all wrong. Maybe you’re nothing like me and have taken to Ark like a prehistoric fish out of water. In that case, you might be better suited to Ark Reborn - a rebalance mod that caters to overhauling stats and making more sense of the world around you. Tamed dinosaurs become weaker; wild ones become much stronger; vegetables, for herbivores, become equivalent to prime meat; supply drops become reworked to provide drop level-appropriate items, among many other changes. All told, this mod changes the laws of the world and in turn offers a more cohesive and credible environment - as far as a world filled with extinct megabeasts can possibly be. This in fact has scope to aid your travels if you heed caution, but is just as likely to swallow you whole without a moment’s notice.
By Milokamilo and MashhitDK respectively
So, how do you stop that from happening? That whole getting swallowed whole business? You equip yourself with some heavy duty armour and some even heavier duty weapons, of course. Saber armour, mammoth armour, spino armour, wolf armour, carno armour, patchy armour, stego armour - these are but some of the rigouts Many New Items adds to your inventory, as well as novelty features such as Captain America’s shield and Ironman’s red and yellow plating. It’s possible to add the many engrams this mod offers on their lonesome, but in its entirety Many New Items sees you right with an array or firepower including land and taser mines, an underwater torpedo launcher and a tranquilizer rifle.
As if the name wasn’t an obvious indicator, the Dirty Weapons mod provides a similar service by equipping you with “some tactical and heavy military weapons,” according to its creator MashhitDK. Grab an M249 Saw, a barret M95 or a 5.56 rifle, among others, as you pretend to know what these letter and number couplings mean beyond the fact they’re capable of stopping wild dinos dead in their tracks. For more on the exact damage you’ll harness under this mod’s guidance, be sure to check out its Steam Workshop page.
Valhalla and The Center
By Excited Kangaroo and evilmrfrank respectively
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land and the tools to conquer it, you might want to consider further exploration. Valhalla and The Center are custom maps that are both roughly three times larger than the generic island, and offer a variety of different features.
While the former is still a work in progress - “completion is about 78%”, reckons its creator - it clinched second place in last year’s official modding contest and has big plans to expand its world into the watery depths beneath the island - in an area up to six times larger than the standard game, no less. The latter, on the other hand, adds a floating island, a lava biome with explorable caverns, and a vast underground world with its own eco system which, says its founder, is large enough to build “huge” cities within. Both maps support the current dino roster - and plan to add new faces as and when they arrive - and are being played on dozens of servers as we speak.
By FinntasticGames and Mike.C respectively
How does the age-old adage go again - if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Well you can take that in its most literal sense with Ark’s Play As Dino mod, as you plumb the depths as a Megalodon, hop around the bush as a Procoptodon, pierce the skies as a Pteranodon, or wreck havoc as a Giganotosaurus. Boasting an impressive 39 different creatures to choose from - as well as the Bronto, Raptor, Rex and Trike skeletal variants featured in the game’s Halloween update - you’ll never be spoilt for choice as you seek to shuffle off this mortal coil. A handy FAQ to help you get started can be found here.
Maybe being top of the food chain ain’t your thing, though. Maybe being subordinated by Mother Nature isn’t something that bothers you. Maybe you just want to forget your worries and ride around on the back of dodo in peace. Maybe you want to do this:
But be warned: cross the path of an antagonistic antediluvian looking like that and I guarantee you’ll wind up as dead as, well, a dodo.
Onto the total conversion mods now, and Ark Pirate World is a great place to start. This mod essentially ignores the dinosaurs of Ark island and instead focuses on commerce while basing the whole thing around pirates because, well, why not? If you’re going to tick one childhood fantasy off your list by way of dinosaurs, why stop there?
As a pirate, you’ll sail Ark’s sea. You’ll trade rare resources from one corner of the map to the next with NPCs or other players on multiplayer servers. You’ll distill your own rum and wine for trade, and you can grow your own tobacco which will apparently “take you to heaven” if you instead decide to smoke it. 30 chests lie scattered across the first island with corresponding treasure maps hidden elsewhere, and you can purchase your very own rafts and boats with the booty.
Of course you can then tack canons and rifles onto your vessel and recruit a ragtag crew and go hunting and pillaging and murdering because, let’s face it, you’ll definitely get fed up of being a diplomatic pirate faster than any pseudo business person can satisfyingly shiver yer timbers.
By Kenturrac Online and Swords respectively
Tribe Wars is a multiplayer-only PvP ‘capture the flag’-type dealio that sees two teams going to toe-to-toe, attacking each other’s flags while at the same time defending their own. In essence, it’s a quicker, more intense version of the tribe battles that already exist and it's far more fun to play. Joining a game requires Tribe Wars to be activated before opening the server browser. From here, select “unofficial” from the drop-down menu and you’re good to go. Info on starting your own servers can be found via the mod’s Steam Workshop page.
Don’t get me wrong, playing/decimating friends with makeshift blunt tools is helluva fun, but if you’d rather kick it in single-player while conversing with/slaughtering other humans, NPC Bush People offers a nice compromise. Here, human NPCs populate the world and inhabit their own tribal settlements for you to visit or raze to the ground. Weirdly, and pretty darn hilariously, you can also tame, train and ride around on the NPCs’ backs in the same way you can with dinosaurs.
This total conversion isn’t quite finished yet, however it offers a tonne of stuff to play around with nevertheless - so much stuff that it was crowned the overall winner of last year’s official mod contest, beating the aforementioned Valhalla to the top prize.
Primitive Plus desires to reimagine a modern day society built around primordial resources, where players can specialise in certain trades, but must come together to forge a functioning civilisation.
“Will you be a farmer who sells specialized crops vital to keep the economy going?” asks the mod’s creator. “Will you become a hunter and collect delicacies from the plentiful land? Will you be a proud warrior who has spent their life prepping for intense battles? Will you become a builder and construct a town of the future? Or will you generalize and learn the basics to be a be a well rounded survivalist? The choice is up to you!”
According to its creator, development of this mod will go on “indefinitely”.
More creature colour palette options designed to fit the colour concepts of each race.
Super-duper sized sharks. Say no more.
And when all else fails, you can always take solace at the bottom of a pint tumbler. Just keep one eye on the wooly barman.